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Hi

 

Speaking as an enthusiast for reed organs - (although not everyone in the reed organ fraternity will agree with me) - the reed organ, and especially the Harmonium, is a different type of instrument to a pipe organ. It was designed to be expressive - and the main way on a harmonium of providing the expression is by disconnecting the wind reservoir and manipulating the treadles to change the volume. This is a technique that takes a lot of practice! But it does allow, for example, the "grand Jeu" the 4 basic Harmonium ranks) to be played at a whisper - and with deft manipulation of the treadles, go smoothly to an ff that can, on some harmoniums, exceed 100dBA!

 

The American organ developed from the Harmonium, using a different mechanical arrangement, which does take some of the harshness out of the basic reed sound. (Later quality Harmoniums and American organs also tend to have more voicing variety than the early ones, as techniques improved) A good many of these instruments were built to a price (cheap) for the undemanding and unsophisticated amateur player, whilst a Mustel could cost more than a modest house of its period.

 

They do make adequate instruments for church service accompaniment - but only if the player is prepared to learn how to get the best out of them (just the same as any other organ really!). Many French churches used a Harmonium as the "Orgue de Choer"

 

The 2mp variants, which came a little later were aimed at the "pipe organ substitute" market - and will, with a little care and attention, outlive any electronic - but they will always sound like a reed organ. Personally, I'd rather have a good Harmonium or Suction reed organ and take advantage of the expressiveness than play a 2mp reed organ - but others differ on that point!

 

As to their suitability vs electronics (or the increasing - and I find very worrying - trend to pre-recorded accompaniments) depends mainly, IMHO, on the style of music that's needed - and the availability of a GOOD reed organ (restoration doesn't come cheap!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

I don't know much about these instruments but have noticed that they seem to stay in tune rather well, even if there are other problems.

 

A church in my sister's group of parishes managed to sell their harmonium on ebay for over £400. I'd said they may be lucky to get over £50 for it so was very pleased for them if a little embarassed. Many pipe organs on ebay would do well to fetch £400.

 

John R

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I don't know much about these instruments but have noticed that they seem to stay in tune rather well, even if there are other problems.

 

A church in my sister's group of parishes managed to sell their harmonium on ebay for over £400. I'd said they may be lucky to get over £50 for it so was very pleased for them if a little embarassed. Many pipe organs on ebay would do well to fetch £400.

 

John R

 

The tuning of a reed organ should remain stable for a great many years, and the only cause of occasional tuning problems will be the build-up of dirt in the slot of the reed, where the tongue effectively becomes shorter, so raising the pitch slightly. A good cleaning brings them back to health. In one or two cases I have re-tuned a reed by adding a tiny drop of solder to the tongue, followed by filing to restore the pitch.

 

CP

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The tuning of a reed organ should remain stable for a great many years, and the only cause of occasional tuning problems will be the build-up of dirt in the slot of the reed, where the tongue effectively becomes shorter, so raising the pitch slightly. A good cleaning brings them back to health. In one or two cases I have re-tuned a reed by adding a tiny drop of solder to the tongue, followed by filing to restore the pitch.

 

CP

 

Hi

 

Yes - free reeds stay in tune for decades - and then usually only need cleaning. The correct way to tune (which I've seen but never needed to try) is to support the reed (bending the tongue means it's a write off!) - a sheet of writing paper works well (and also is a good way to clean the gap). GENTLY scrape near the tip of the reed to sharpen - and near the heel (fixed end) to flatten the pitch.

 

To do this properly needs a great deal of skill and practice - and ideally a "tuning bench" where the organ action can be mounted on a wind (or vacuum) supply at a rock solid constant pressure (which is very difficult to acheive with the foot treadles!)

 

The stability of tuning of reed organs was one of the selling points back in the days when they were popular (and ISTR the same thing being said about electronic organs).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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  • 4 years later...

I recently received a request for help from someone who has purchased two reed organs with (to my mind) curious faults. From the description they both seem to be F compass American suction organs, though I haven't actually seen them. The symptoms are: very hard to blow; not much noise; the touch gets heavier when the instruments are blown.

 

The last is the strangest because the pallets in both suction and positive pressure instruments are arranged to slightly lighten the touch when the instrument is in wind, if anything. This is unlike the pipe organ of course. It suggests to me that someone has tried to convert these to positive pressure operation for some reason. Probably the most difficult aspect of this would be that the springing and direction of movement of the reservoir would both need to be reversed. If this was not attempted, or was unsuccessful, it would explain why the instruments are very hard to blow - there might well not be an effective wind reservoir at all. Also, reeds arranged for suction would barely operate if the direction of air flow were to be reversed unless they were inserted upside down in the cells. This would be next to impossible if only because of the rivets.

 

And apparently the instruments have been "beautifully restored"!

 

Any other ideas anyone? Is this pair of instruments notorious for doing the rounds on the market, looking for an unsuspecting buyer perhaps?

 

CEP

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